Entrepreneurship and Sustainability

When I went to Bob Willard’s Sustainability Advantage site and it opened radically and daringly with a 90-second video pitch, I knew I was in the virtual company of an entrepreneur.Bobwillard

He has a nice Clark Kent photograph.  Trust me–watch the pitch.

I found the site through Director of VT KnowledgeWorks Jim Flowers who, at 5:18 PM on Tuesday, sent Bob Willard’s slides, The Triple Bottom Line:  Sustainable Growth Strategies that Produce Financial, Environmental, and Social Viability, 2007 AURP Conference(.pdf) to his VT KnowledgeWorks e-mail list.

About 7:30 PM on Tuesday, I e-mailed Bob Willard for permission to upload his conference slides.  I also invited him to offer three pieces of advice to high-tech entrepreneurs interested in sustainability.

(In my earnest, relentless pursuit of the best information for readers of Inside VT KnowledgeWorks, I will tell you that I consistently and brashly hit up top experts–most totally unknown to me–for three pieces of advice.  It’s sort of like pitching a VC:  "You don’t know me, but have I got an idea for you…" )

At 7:25 AM, fewer than twelve hours later, I received Bob Willard’s very generous permission to use the slides and and his cordial, thoughtful, thought-provoking advice.

To me, that he responded quickly says he’s serious about what he’s doing.  That he responded specifically indicates to me that he knows his material.  That he responded briefly tells me he knows his material well.  (He passes my CEO test for being able to convey the whole of an idea by describing a few carefully selected parts.)  And I smile with appreciation as I write this because he obviously knows how to sell.  Notice that he connects with me personally by mentioning my blog.  Ahh…

Even in how he offers his advice, Bob Willard models quality entrepreneurship.    

Hi, Anne,

Your request for three pieces of advice for high-tech entrepreneurs is intriguing. How about these?

1. Find a way to connect your product / service to climate change mitigation, carbon reduction, energy savings, and / or carbon footprint reduction. The two biggest sustainability issues / risks on the horizon threatening the value of corporations are the Climate Crisis and the Energy Crisis, joined at the hip by dependency on fossil fuels. Sooner or later, regulatory bodies will put a price on carbon, either through carbon taxes or cap-and-trade systems, or both. The explosion of “green computing” and venture capital invested in “clean tech” are signals the business community is starting to “get it” on these risks. High-tech entrepreneurs need to connect their offerings to carbon risk mitigation. They need to coat-tail the climate and energy crises. (Your blog shows you have personal experience with risk. That’s what this is all about.)

2. When marketing your high-tech offering, connect it to existing priorities / problems / challenges faced by your customers’ senior executives. Make it relevant. Meet the executives where they are and help them see new and better ways to use your offering to solve today’s problems and challenges.

3. Develop a holistic, comprehensive, quantified business case for your high-tech offering that includes co-benefits. The green building industry has discovered that the biggest benefit from LEED standard buildings is not energy savings; it is occupant productivity and health benefits. Who would have thought? Similarly, high-tech entrepreneurs may need to include a complete menu of benefits similar to the seven I outlined in my St. Louis presentation in order to create a compelling business case that galvanizes executive commitment.

All the best.

Bob Willard
[email protected]

Anne’s note:  Bob Willard appears today, April 24, and tomorrow, April 25, 2008, at the Sustainable Business Conference in Ashland, Wisconsin.

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